As most of you know, my father died when I was young. It remains the biggest influence on my life. Hardly a day goes by that I’m not reminded or make decisions based on my experience of growing up without a father. One of my biggest concerns when getting married and then having children was the fact that I didn’t have a positive role model to pattern myself after when it came to marriage or fatherhood.
How would I know what to do? What are my responsibilities when it comes to running a household?
Then, after I met my wife, I took a trip with her to meet her family. My wife’s family was very kind and welcomed me with open arms. I’m sure it was more about my personality and how I treated Andrea than it was that I was Catholic (a definite plus) and I’m sure if I’d been allowed to wear my earring on that first visit, that would have been okay too.
Spending time with the family and staying as a guest in my future in-laws house allowed me to watch my future Father-in-law Mike as he went about his day to day responsibilities. It didn’t take long to see how he shouldered responsibility. He went about his day taking out the trash, refilling the humidifiers, shoveling snow and even winding the giant clock in the living room – generally working hard to make sure the house was nice and that things were running smoothly.
He would exercise regularly – often early in the morning, attend church and choir practice with my mother-in-law and generally be her support whenever he was needed. I noticed that he was a hard worker but had a sharp sense of humor. He favored dropping puns whenever it was warranted (or perhaps, some would say, even when it wasn’t) and he was warm and caring and not once did I ever hear him complain.
I have spent many vacations both at my in-laws place and here at my house with Mike and he has always been someone that I could look up to. In fact, I often find myself saying to myself when I don’t want to do something around the house, “WWMD?” What would Mike do? And it doesn’t take me long to get up and do it – because I know Mike would do it without complaint. I cannot tell you how helpful it’s been for me to have someone like Mike to look up to and, even at this late date in my life, have as a role model.
Recently, Mike was diagnosed with a tumor in his abdomen. The family gets frequent updates via email from my mother-in-law. They often talk more about how well Mike has dealt with the treatments – maintaining most of his normal activities, continuing to go to work every day, etc. – than the actual treatments itself. This doesn’t surprise me. Even as Mike goes through this, he is who he is. They say you can truly judge someone by how they react to difficult circumstances and as I watch from afar it’s more apparent than ever that Mike is someone who I should aspire to be.
May I ask you, as you read this, to say a prayer or send good thoughts to my father-in-law Mike. He’s a good man and he deserves better. Even if he wouldn’t tell you that.
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